From the air, one really notices that Florida is like a lake filled sponge! This past weekend, Ed and I flew to Gainesville in Alachua County, and then to Titusville, in Brevard County. This time, I was looking at lakes more than rivers. From the air, Florida is a patchwork of ponds and lakes reflecting like mirrors in the sun, a strange and beautiful landscape, or shall I say “waterscape?”
During the flight, I started thinking that if water bodies could talk, it would be the lakes that would have the strongest lobby. According to a 2006 article by Sherry Boas of the Sun Sentinel, the state of Florida has over 30,000 lakes! Many like Lake Apopka, in Orange County, historically, were altered because shoreline wetlands supported successful agricultural endeavors, kind of a smaller version of Lake Okeechobee; and again, just like Lake Okeechobee, although a great industry arose, this led to the demise of the lake. But like the Indian River Lagoon, and Caloosahatchee, people rose up to “Save Lake Apopka” and continue to work on this today: Orlando Sentinel Article 2018, shared by Janet Alford: (https://www.clickorlando.com/water/how-lake-apopka-went-from-floridas-most-polluted-lake-to-the-promising)
Yes indeed, Florida appears to float like a sponge in a sea of water. How we could think that our agriculture fertilizers and human sewage issues would not catch up with us on a broader level was naive. Excessive nutrients coming from humans on land are polluting waterbodies throughout the state which in turn also drain to pollute more waterbodies. Whether it be ponds, lakes, estuaries, or the Everglades, we must wipe up our mess, clean out our sponge!
On January 10th, Florida’s Office of the Governor, under very newly elected Ron DeSantis, issued Executive Order 19-12. The title of this order is “Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment.” It is a remarkable and voluminous piece.
Today, I am going to share it in full as you may have only heard about parts of it in the newspaper.
First, note the “Whereases…” giving background and laying foundation for the order.
Whereas, water and natural resources are the foundation of Florida’s communities, economy and way of life; and
Whereas, protection of water resources is one of the most critical issues facing our state and requires immediate action; and
Whereas, recent algae blooms have resulted in an increasing threat to our environment and fragile ecosystems, including our rivers, beaches, and wildlife, as well as causing the issuance of health advisories, closures of recreational areas and economy losses in adjacent communities; and
Whereas, as the Governor of the State of Florida, a primary mission of my tenure is to follow in words of President Theodore Roosevelt by having Florida treat its “natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value”;
Now, Therefore, I Ron DeSantis, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article IV, Section (1) (a) of the Florida Constitution, and all other applicable laws, do hereby issue the following Executive Order, to take immediate effect:
The order is five pages long, with three sections:
Section 1: Focus on Rapid Improvement of Water Quality, Quality, and Supply (A-O) 15 parts directed to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP); the Department of Health; Visit Florida; and the Department of Economic Opportunity.
Section 2: Restructuring, to Focus on Accountability, Transparently, and Science to Achieve More Now for Florida’s Environment (A-C) 3 parts directed only to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Section 3: Ensure Florida’s Valuable and Vulnerable Coastlines and Natural Resources are Protected (A-B) 2 parts, again, directed only to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
There are a total of 20 parts to the executive order. Note state’s organizational chart: DEP’s place is as an executive agency under the governor, Executive Branch. Water Management Districts are under the governor but fall in the “local government” section as the Water Management Districts have the power to levy taxes within their districts, but are appointed by the Governor.
Please peruse entire executive order below. Read at least first line or underlined and know that it is not one, but all of these “declarations within the declaration” that will empower government structure, if steered by true captains, to abate water woes for all Springs, Estuaries, Rivers, Lakes, and the Everglades of Florida. Thank you Governor DeSantis for this map!
Yesterday, I called in for the final conference call of Governor-elect Ron DeSantis’ Transition Advisory Committee on the Environment, chaired by our own, Congressman Brian Mast. It was very, very interesting. Highlights of the call were recorded by TC Palm’s Ali Schmitz:
As a member of the public, I was able to listen-in on the call ~this one focusing on Agriculture, and make my recommendation.
Having served on the Constitution Revision Commission in 2018, I am especially drawn to the importance of government structure. DeSantis’ originally posted environmental policy statement listed Accountability for Water Quality. Right now, many Floridians wonder “who is charge,” who answers for our present lack of water quality? Some even think, understandably so, that it is the Army Corp of Engineers. It is not. Under the law, the state of Florida is responsible for water quality, but with “three cooks in the kitchen,” (DEP, Water Management Districts, and Dept of Agriculture) this is difficult. So with my time on the call, I asked for centralization of enforcement of water quality standards and a strong Lead Agency:
CENTRALIZE THE ENFORCEMENT OF WATER QUALITY STANDARDS. A Majority of water quality regulation is currently housed at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). However, certain water quality standards and monitoring reside within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) which is overseen by the Commission of Agriculture. DeSantis will work with the Florida legislature to move all components of water quality regulation within the Executive Branch to DEP. This will increase uniformity and ensure that the Secretary of DEP, who is accountable to the Governor, has the tools necessary to meet the water quality standards that Floridians deserve. ~DeSantis for Governor website Sept. 2018.
As we all know, the inauguration is January 8th, 2019. Very exciting! Congratulations Governor DeSantis! And awesome that Congressman Mast is by your side!!
Before we get too excited, let’s not forget…
Today, I will post the website of Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis on the environment so we can remember what was promised and hold the governor and all members of the Transition Advisory Committee on the Environment accountable for next four years. Looking forward to a governor who will protect the environment on day one!
Recently, the Florida House of Representatives announced its committee appointments made by new House Speaker Jose Oliva. Today, I will note those appointed to environmental committees which, of course, function in the dark ages, bound together with agriculture. Advocates should know these key players and build relationships now, and during the committee process that beings January 8, 2019 ~not once Legislative Session begins in March. Too late!
So here we go…
The really all-powerful Speaker of the House is Jose Oliva who will reign from the end of 2018 to 2020. He is from Miami Lakes and is C.E.O. of Oliva Cigar Co. Read about him below and the committees and representatives over which he has great influence. Congratulations to him on attaining this leadership role that very few achieve.
Speaker Oliva’s environmental appointments are below with an article or two giving background on each appointee. Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Holly Raschein is from Key Largo and a Health Care Special Projects Manager. Vice-chair, Rep. Rick Roth is from West Palm Beach and his heritage is linked to a multi-generational family-farm in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Holly has a track record supporting environmental issues such as the EAA Reservoir and Rick works for the environment within the goals of the EAA Environmental Protection District and the 1994 Everglades Forever Act. Read below about both representatives and what they have to say.
Interestingly, Holly Raschein also serves on the Subcommittee for Agriculture as and Natural Resources as vice-chair to, chair, Chuck Wesley, a College Administrator from Newberry (near Gainesville). Rep Wesley notes that “sustainable agriculture and the environment are some of his top goals.” You can read what he wrote in an op-ed for below. All this sounds good. But what does that really mean? Our job is to hold all of these politicians accountable.
Yes, it is important we know and communicate with who is in charge. I hope you will reach out to all of them through letter best, but email, or phone call helps too. I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Thank you for reading my blog in 2019. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 will bring…
For more information on Florida House of Representatives go here https://www.myfloridahouse.gov. Look at their calendar, see when committees meet, follow what they are reviewing and call, write their office to let them know how much you love Florida and that water is key!
Sometimes the history of the Everglades is really confusing. Why, with all of the environmental advocacy, since the 1970s, does the health of our environment remain crippled? One way to simplify it is to think in terms of before and after the 1947 U.S. Central and South Florida Plan. Of course there is extensive history before 1947, but it was after 1947 that things in South Florida’s water world became culturalized, compartmentalized, and legally defined. Before we talk about this 1947 Central and South Florida Plan, let’s review some important highlights pre-1947.
1. Hamilton Disston begins the drainage of Lake Okeechobee (1881)
2. Governor Napoleon Broward hires U.S.D.A. scientist James Wright who determines that “eight canals would indeed drain 1,850,000 acres of swampland” (1904)
3. The U.S. Congress’ Rivers and Harbors Act includes significant funds to deepen the manmade Hamilton Disston connection of the Calooshahatchee River to Lake Okeechobee (ca.1910)
4. The scandal of James Wright (from #2 above) who was deemed “a fraud” for the failure of the land to drain as expected ~causing the slump in swampy real estate sales (1914)
5. The resurgence of confidence in sales and a 1920s real estate boom fueled by advances in soil science, and the success of agricultural start-ups located in Moore Haven, Belle Glade, and Clewiston south of Lake Okeechobee
6. Land in a defined “Everglades Drainage District” more fully being systematically cut into sections for development with canals draining agricultural fertilizers and other chemicals into the waters of the state (1924)
6. Two very powerful hurricanes causing thousands of deaths and the destruction of property, and thus the state’s “call for a higher dike” (1926 and 1928)
7. The state’s reaction to the hurricanes, the 1929 establishment of the “Okeechobee Flood Control District” for the “Everglades Drainage District” as well as the Federal Government’s Army Corp of Engineers taking over “field operations”around Lake Okeechobee ~including the building of a thirty-five foot earthen dike and ingeniously using navigation funding to build the cross-state-canal, connecting the Caloosahatchee and the St Lucie Estuaries to Lake Okeechobee ~conveniently working as discharge-escapes through those estuaries when “necessary”
So, as we can see, a lot happened pre-1947, but it was what happened after, were things really changed…
In 1947 it rained and rained, and there were two hurricanes. From Orlando to Florida Bay the agricultural and developed lands, that had been built in drained, once marshy, swampy areas, really flooded, and in some places a foot of water sat for months. There was great economic loss.
The crying cow booklet, above, was sent to every member of the U.S. Congress.
To fight Florida’s destructive “flood waters” the 1948 U.S. Congress adopted legislation for the CENTRAL AND SOUTH FLORIDA PROJECT, a twenty year flood plan from Orlando to Florida Bay that included the formal creation and protection of the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake O, the Water Conservation Areas, intertwined with thousands of miles of canals and structures to control the once headwaters and River of Grass. HOUSE DOCUMENT 643 – 80TH CONGRESS (00570762xBA9D6)
Next, mirroring the same terminology the United States Government had used (the Central and South Florid Project) the state of Florida created the “Central and South Florida Flood Control District” to manage that CENTRAL and SOUTH FLORIDA PROJECT. A bit confusing huh? A tongue twister. And in a way one could say, at that time, the Central and South Florida Project and the Central and South Florida Flood Control District “became one.” The overall goal above all other things was flood control. And this marriage of the Central and South Florida Project and the Central and South Florida Flood Control District was successful at controlling the waters, but it also killed the natural environment, thus Florida herself.
This embedded cultural philosophy of “flood control only” was challenged in 1972 with the birth of the national environmental movement, and a consciousness that the natural system that supported Florida’s tourism, quality of life, agriculture, not to mention valuable wildlife, was in tremendous decline.
As we know from watching Treasure Coast politician, Joe Negron, being President of the Senate of is a very powerful position, and allows one to direct Florida political policy. West coast Manatee/Hillsborough county’s Bill Galvano follows Joe Negron, and for the next two years will be Florida’s Senate President.
As we navigate our toxic and waters, it is important we get to know Bill Galvano. ~Read his bio. Learn where he is from. Be familiar with his background and former committees. And most important of all, try to determine what motivates him and pay attention to the dreams of his presidency.
The best way to get this information first hand is to listen to the new president’s induction speech. Thankfully this is recorded by the Florida Channel for those who did not attend. Here is a link; go to about 40:00 to hear President Galvano’s speech.
The Miami Herald used this quote to sum up Bill Galvano:
“As Senate president, I have very little ability to change the national discourse, or to stem the tide of modern-day incivility that is so pervasive in an era of social media and 24-hour news cycle,” he said, “But I can tell you as Senate president, and while I’m Senate president, that the Florida Senate will have civility, transparency, candor, and provide opportunity.”
Well as water advocates, it’s our opportunity and responsibility to influence President Galvano by visiting, calling, writing his office, getting to know his staff, and relaying the concerns we have about our natural environment that is quickly going to hell in a hand basket!
Also, I must note, that I just happen to know that new Treasure Coast Senator Gayle Harrell has a good relationship with President Galvano because I saw that she was walking him around at her election night party. (Harrell: http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s25?pref=full)
Use everything you can to communicate now before legislative session begins and it’s too late!
Knowing who has been assigned what committees is important. Let’s learn about a couple of “water-senators ” ~those assigned to committees where water will come up. No pun intended.
First, let’s go to the Florida Senate website and click on the Committees Tab. Look around. What titles have something to do with water or the environment? Here you will see a list of committees. Very interesting! Only a few could apply.
For sure, when it comes to purposes of water, under Standing Committees,Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government is key.
Who got this position? Wow! Senator Debbie Mayfield has been assigned to be the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government. She represents Indian River and Brevard Counties and in earlier years served in the Florida House of Representatives so she knows about all the toxic “Lost Summers,” and the troublesome “brown tide” that affects her area.(https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/environment/lagoon/2018/03/02/again-killer-brown-algae-responsible-2016-mass-fish-deaths-blooming/381630002/)
When you click on her name you will also see she serves on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the Appropriations Committee. Senator Mayfield is very well versed in water issues not only because she is our Indian River lagoon neighbor, but because as she was an ally of former Senate President Joe Negron in 2018.
Now, take the time now to click on these links below and see if you happen to know any of the other senators serving on either the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government or the Natural Resources Committee or anything else relevant, perhaps Tourism where water really belongs. Take note of these senators. Do you know anyone who may know them? A friend across the state?
There are other important positions, but these two featured Senators that have a track record. These are two you can reach out to now, along with your legislative delegation.
Yes! Start building relationships NOW.
If you can’ reach the legislator him or herself, call, write or go to their office and build a relationship with their staff. Like any relationship this takes time, effort, finesse, and multiple visits. Ask for a meeting just to talk about what is important to you as a citizen, no matter your political affiliation. All Florida politicians represent all Floridians.
Here are some tips about Effective Communication and a visual from last year to refresh our memories about how an idea becomes a law.
Advocate for water now! Once legislative session begins, it’s too late!